RPG Review: Gods of the Fall by Monte Cook Games

Gods-of-the-Fall-CoverIt’s time for an RPG review! Trying to get back into the swing of things, while fulfilling two Kickstarters, planning three more, and handling regular life.

I feel busy. But this week was a good week. I received fulfillment rewards for 5 Kickstarters in the last month, and I’m slowly working my way through them for review.

First up, Gods of the Fall by Monte Cook Games. Gods of the Fall is the first book in the new line of settings for MCG’s Cypher System, a generic ruleset identical to the one that powers the wildly successful Numenera and The Strange games.

Gods of the Fall was a Kickstarter reward, and the game does require the generic ruleset in the Cypher System Rulebook to play the game (think along the lines of the new White Wolf World of Darkess/Chronicles of Darkness line of games).

Players take on the role of adventures who discover they have a divine spark, 40 years after Heaven fell and crashed through the Earth, killing all the Gods. It’s a post-divine, post-apocalyptic fantasy game.


1.) Size and Production Quality.

A nice 188 page hardcover, full color book. Like all MCG productions, the book is a mixture of gloss and matte on the cover, and feels sturdy and durable. It feels solid, and fits nicely along the rest of the MCG games on the shelf. It’s a little thin for $45 USD, but RPG pricing is a hard line to nail down, and I certainly don’t feel like my money was wasted.

8/10


2.) Art

This might be the single most beautiful RPG book I’ve ever owned. Every piece of art in the game is brimming with beauty, evocation and talent. Seriously. I just flipped through the book looking at what might be the most amazing fantasy art I’ve ever seen compiled in a single RPG rulebook.

The graphic design is the normal MCG layout (sidebars with page references and tips, multi-colored chapters), and it holds and contains the art and words in a truly stunning manner.  Can’t rave enough.

It frankly reminds me of the beautiful 4th Edition Legend of the Five Rings books.

11/10


3.) Content / Rules

Ok. So. The Cypher system seems to be a bit polarizing. I haven’t made up my mind about the ruleset in a final decision.

It’s the usual “I’m a _adjective_ _noun_ who _verbs_” but with the addition of a new type, called a domain, that adds on the the end of the Character descriptor and says “and is the _God of _________”.

Ok, that works, and it’s a solid way to get into that. I approve fully, and as always, I like the “adj/noun/verb” char-gen set up. The Domain powers are pretty slick, and there’s wonderfully generic so you can let your imagination run wild. Domains can be as specific as you want, from “God of Winter” to “God of the Morning Frost” to “The Snowflake God of the North” and mechanically the same ruleset will completely cover all the aspects.

The rules for Divine Shifts are a simple variation of the superhero rules in the Cypher corebook (makes sense, and fits), and here’s where the game gets awesome.

You have to complete legendary labors (a la Hercules), fulfill a 7 part prophecy (which is excellent written), gain servants, and help restore the (or create a new) kingdom of Heaven with some semblance of Glory.

It’s amazing. The list of legendary deeds the setting has prebuilt is extensive. Aside for my (admittedly undecided) reservations about the ruleset, this whole section is great game design, evocative setting integration, and exceptionally well dome.

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

The GM section here is designed to be appended to the GM section in the corebook, so it’s a little sparse. It talks about how to run an “epic” game and deal with questions of divinity, god-hood, and integrating some of the fiddly bits of the Cypher System into Gods of the Fall.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There’s one here, designed to get you started on your path to Godhood. It’s pretty fun, but as always, all pre-mades suffer from a need to cram all the little bits you need to learn about the game into this book. Wasn’t for me, something with a little more epic (like the GM section advises) around the pre-made would have felt better.

7/10


Total Score: 42/50

That’s a pretty high score, and it reflects my impressions of the game. I am exceptionally impressed and glad I got in on this. I’m already planning a full campaign and how I’d run that, and my head is full of cool visuals, ideas, and plot threads.

This game is awesome. Full stop.

Advertisements

Review: The Night Manager

the-night-manager-key-art-poster-2000xI finally got around to watching the spy thriller, 6 episode series from AMC: The Night Manger.

Brief synopsis: Based on the outstandingly perfect John Le Carre novel, The Night Manager, revolves around a hotel night manager recruited to spy on an international arms dealer and gain his trust.

TL;DR review: It’s the single best piece of visual espionage entertainment ever created.

Seriously. Tired of James Bond style spy-thriller action? Bored with Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, and such?

Meet Jonathan Pine (played by the fantastic Tom Hiddleston). A hero who will literally talk himself into victory (there’s only about 20ish minutes of action fight scenes in this whole 6 hour series). It’s amazing. It’s intense, taut, riveting, intelligent, and unexpectedly brilliant. Seriously. It deviates from the book, in some major ways, but all the ways feel like updates to the story, and I wouldn’t change a one. It’s the themes, the art, the feeling of the book brought into modern TV, and done, just perfectly.

It’s over, and I am so sad to see it end, because I watched the last 5 episodes on a 5 hour binge, without getting off the couch. The cast killed it. Watching Hiddleston morph into a new character over six hours was just enrapturing. Hugh Laurie delivered a perfect villain, who you hate, while not hating to watch. All of the cast and writers delivered characters that are well defined, consistently interpreted, superbly acted.

The ending was both predictable and surprising in it’s twists, and turns, while still being recognizably part of an espionage tradition in all the right ways.

I’m running out of superlatives to describe how I felt.

It’s TV that I can only describe as luxurious. In pacing, dialogue, action, and enjoyment. It’s savoring that perfect mean, you don’t want to end.

I paid for the whole season on Amazon Prime, and I’d pay double or triple again. I can’t recommend it enough.

 

Movie Review: The Nice Guys

nice-guys-movie-poster-2016This weekend, I took some relaxation time, and the wife and I went to see a film. I’m a bit of a Shane Black fan, loving Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, and lots of his other work (he basically write perfect neo-noir, and I love me all the types of noir).

So The Nice Guys was right up my alley. And boy. It was literally camping in my alley, wanting to hang out and be my best friend.

The plot is delightfully simple, yet convoluted in the right timing (I’ll get to that in a second), the acting is top notch, and the action is shaky cam free!

For me, thrillers or mysteries live or die by the timing of plot reveals. I’m a pretty sharp guy, and my wife can attest, that I figure out plots pretty quickly and are pretty accurate in my predictions.  The trick is not revealing too much too early, and that’s a hard craft for most movies. Which is ok. I’m a limited sub-set of an audience, and I don’t expect every movie to match me.

The Nice Guys nailed the timing issue of their reveals (as Shane Black often does), delivered a lot of delightfully dark humor around those reveals, but kept the plot simple enough that it didn’t feel preachy or in your face with its twists. It felt natural, and you felt swept along on the journey as these two very broken men face down crime-ridden 70s LA (which, by the way, felt absolutely perfect. The clothes, the music, the theme. It was everything I wanted to see about 70s LA).

It was perfect noir. Absolutely perfect.

Also, read this article if you need further convincing.

 

RPG Review: Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition from Green Ronin

GRR5510e_MutantsAndMastermindsThirdEditionDeluxeHeroesHandbook_1_1024x1024Wow, two RPG reviews in a week. Aren’t you lucky?

I have a soft spot in my RPG heart for Mutants and Masterminds, as both my favorite superhero RPG, and one of my best campaign memories (an online play-by-post) with some of my best friends at the time.

I’ve only tried to run it a handful of times since then, but I still carry very fond memories of it. So I finally took the dive and obtained the 3rd edition corebook, several years after it had already been out.

So here I am, to review Mutants and Masterminds Third Edition!


1.) Size and Production Quality

A 288 page full color hardback book. Regular sized, and expertly laid out, the quality of this book is also very reminiscent of the graphic design/layout of the previous 2e edition I fell in love with. It’s a well made book, and very easy on the eyes to read. The quick references pages at the end are fantastic, and very useful in the heat of game play.

10/10


2.) Art

In my previous review, I complained about art being reused from previous editions, and M&M 3e commits some of the same sins. However, they go out of their way to also include new art, which is fantastic. Some of the new “iconic” heroes, are amazing, and the art that covers them is equally amazing. There’s a few weak points in the art throughout the book, but very few books have gorgeous perfect art all the way through.

8/10


3.) Content/Rules

So. One of the big struggles with M&M 2e was it’s mired beginnings in 3rd edition D&D’s OGL. There was a lot of holdover baggage there, and the game suffered in actual play for it.

I’m pleased to find that 3e doesn’t commit those errors. The design team did a fantastic job of stripping the game down to it’s core and basic play mechanics and rebuilding from there. Multiple tables have been condensed into a single quick reference table. Powers have been streamlined, and problematic powers have been completely redefined into newer versions with better mechanics, or removed completely. There were a few old powers I missed in the new book as their own powers (gravity control, etc), but Green Ronin did the stellar job of publishing a very in-depth and useful conversion guide (here) that will cover your needs and help you find the new equivalent to those old powers.

The changes to abilities, advantages, skills, and effects really bring the game into a simpler design space, while retaining the “complexity” of custom builds that helped to allow a player to truly define what they wanted.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

As always, I normally loathe game master sections. But, Green Ronin knocked it out of the park here, with indepth examples of the more complex rules, detailed analysis of comic book and superhero genre, (in movies, comic, novel or other formats).

I was actually quite impressed. My only real complaint is the lack of easily accessible PDF print outs of some of the charts and tables they want you to use. I understand the lack (buy the GM screen), but as a player who doesn’t like GM screens, I really don’t want to buy one. I’d rather just have a reference sheet I can use as needed.

8/10


5.) Pre-Made Adventure

Wow. 2 pre-made adventures that are distinct, different, and very well written. As a bonus, there’s a partial 3e update to Freedom City (their old 2e default setting), and their new setting Emerald City (which actually seems really cool).

Well done Green Ronin. Well done.

10/10


Total Score: 46/50

Wow. Not a bad score (actually really high, I think only Pendragon books have beaten this one out). I love this edition, and I’m intending to make time for it after my next campaign wraps up (whenever that is).

A great book, and one I’ll avidly recommend, especially if you love the genre like I do.

Monthly One-Off Recap: Fantasy AGE

This post is written by the GM of our Fantasy AGE one-off, Riley Horn! GRR6001_450_d9ffbea6-fda4-4ef0-b275-a8521e0bd371_1024x1024


I always struggle with the first line of writing any post. I tend to type, delete, type, delete, until I find the exact words that make perfect sense.

So last night I had the chance to GM a Fantasy Age game by Green Ronin Publishing. It had been a while since I GMed so I felt a little awkward doing it. I am still new when it comes to Fantasy Age, but the rule system allows for easy play which is nice, and it’s simple to figure out.

The first of two challenges I found is the use of stunt tables. It is supposed to speed up game play and bring a flair of excitement to the table. I found it a little clunky and slows down combat. I think of the stunts were simpler it would really help to smooth out the process of using them.

The other challenge I found is more of a personal thing, I like to have a lot of variety to choose from when it comes to monsters and creatures in general. In the back of the rule book there are some, but not enough for my taste.

The supplements that Green Ronin makes are great additions, but to me still leave a little lacking in what I wanted to pit my players against. Overall running the game was a good experience and playing Fantasy Age periodically is something I will continue to do, but it hasn’t won a place as my favorite RPG to play, or run.


 

This blog has already reviewed Fantasy AGE (click HERE).

Thanks Riley for the one-off and the write up!

RPG Review: Cypher System from Monte Cook Games

CSR-NormalToday I’m reviewing the Cypher System Rulebook from Monte Cook Games.

It’s a generic RPG system, designed to make storytelling both faster, easier on the GM, and flexible enough to do anything.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

So, Cypher System Rulebook is large. 400+ pages, with full-color illustrations, layout and more. The sidebars contain call-outs, page references and more, that make using the game exceptionally easy. Big win, and a beautiful book.

10/10


2.) Art

The art is pretty good throughout the book for the most part, but there are a few pieces that just aren’t very good. It’s a little disappointing, but, in the end, the majority is pretty good, and evokes the feeling each particular section is going for.

The cover is fantastic, and I really like how it shows the main 4 types of campaigns the CSR is pointed towards.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

The “Cypher” system is based on the same ruleset that powers Numenera, The Strange and in a diluted way, No Thank You, Evil!. It’s a system that has been discussed extensively in other places, so I won’t get into details, but I find the character creation to be a joy compared to other games.

The idea of “I’m a [adjective] [noun] who [verbs]” is easily accessible to a majority of players, and makes the character creation fly by. It’s easy to explain and understand, and helps to guide players through the system.

The dice system is probably my least favorite component of the game. It’s a little too unwieldy and hard to explain to new players when they’re playing. The idea of “the difficulty times 3 is what you need to exceed on a d20, but effort/edge can lower the difficulty, so you have to roll X” leads to the GM constantly re-explaining that portion of the rules to new players. For the simplicity the rest of the game follows admirably, this particular mechanic bothers me. It’s not a bad mechanic, but I think it is a little too difficult to use.

The items and flexiblity of the system in running/playing other games is apparently, and the several chapters dedicated to emulating particular genres are very well done.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

 

Each particular genre section contains information about running the Cypher system inside that genre, and custom rules for that genre. The Game Master section also includes a “bestiary” that covers all the genres, rules for setting tone, theme, and guidance on how to deliver the expectations of each genre. It’s fairly complete but lacks in a few sections.

9/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There is no pre-made adventure in this game, so instead, we’ll look at the “Campaign Worksheet” add-on. It’s an excellent page, devoted to helping you determine exactly what the game is you’re running, what’s allowed, and what particular rules you’re using, then giving them to players to allow them to have the full campaign in mind. It’s very well done, and necessary to the game.

10/10


Total Score: 43/50

 

Hey, that’s a pretty solid score. It’s beat out all the FFG games, and only falls behind Pendragon and Keltia (theme is my winner there). It’s a good book, and a good generic system, and one I’d recommend to newer RPGers or players who are wanting a fast paced, cinematic, and storytelling focused system. The rules rarely get in the way of the game, and it’s a pretty fun ride on the read through.

I’d purchase this game again, and the fact that I keep trying to come up with campaigns to use this game for is an indicator of how it’s caught my attention.

RPG Review: Angakkuit from AbstractNova

166565-thumb140.jpgAlright. It’s time to review another RPG! This time, it’s Angakkuit, the RPG of Inuit myth and legend from AbstractNova

As a disclaimer: I was granted a free PDF of this RPG to review.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

Angakkuit is a smaller RPG, clocking in at 72 full-color pages. The book is 8 by 11, well laid out (truly, it was a gift of layout, so easy to read), and concisely written. No complaints, and I think the price point lands just about right.

10/10


2.) Art

I’m a reasonable guy, and as a guy who’s worked in RPGs and games, I understand art is expensive. But I also know it’s not something you skimp on. The art in Angakkuit is great, but exceptionally sparse. There’s maybe a half-dozen to a dozen pieces in the whole book. That wasn’t nearly enough for me, and I could have used more to understand the setting.

5/10


3.) Content and Rules

So, Angakkuit uses a deck of cards for resolution. It has a mechanic, where based on your skill, what certain cards mean for your success. It’s not too hard to understand, although a bit hard to keep track of.

The mechanics are…workmanlike, in that they service the needs of the game, but certainly aren’t terribly evocative or latched into the game setting.

The bits of setting fluff were great, and really did an excellent job educating me regarding a culture and mythos I’m not personally familiar with. It was enough to inspire extra reading and research and I found everything I read interesting and new. It was a good feeling, and well presented.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

The GM section is essential in this game, and they sell it well. It covers a myriad of topics, from character death, how to use dreams as storytelling, monsters to fight, and what sort of adventures to run. There were a few parts that either were too short, or too long, or didn’t present all the information you’d think you’d want. Overall though, well done.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

The premade adventure conveys the themes and elements of the game in an excellent manner, and is concise but still interesting. They divide it into several “scenes” and they flow naturally from one to another. Very well done.

10/10


Total Score: 39/50

I love RPGs that explore cultures, mythos, settings or worlds unfamiliar to me. I love learning, and I love learning through a game (even though it’s never accurate, it works for me). Angakkuit hits all those notes for, with it’s carefully attention to detaiul, setting and theme. Hence the high score.

I’m unsure I’ll run it with it’s base mechanics again, but I can easily see myself adapting it to Savage Worlds (my favorite generic system).

Angakkuit is a game I’m happy to have in my PDF library, and I’ll be picking up an extra copy in PoD from DriveThruRPG very soon to put on my physical shelf. I’d recommend it to anyone.